Policing the Borders: Australian and Indonesian Police Cooperation on Migration Control

Mr Asher Hirsch1
1Monash University, Collingwood, Australia

States around the world have increasingly worked together to prevent the movement of refugees and other irregular migrants. According to the former Australian Border Force Commissioner, “a lesser-known success of Operation Sovereign Borders has been the many people smuggling ventures we have been able to prevent departing from source and transit countries. This occurs through collaboration with our domestic and international partners offshore.” A key example of this collaboration is the partnership between the Australian Federal Police (‘AFP’) and the Indonesian National Police (‘POLRI’). This cooperation involves significant funding, training and resourcing from the AFP to POLRI, as well as information sharing between the two agencies and Australian secret services. This partnership has resulted in the disruption of hundreds of people smuggling operations and the interception of refugees in Indonesia, preventing refugees from leaving Indonesia and forcing them into a life of detention, destitution and limbo in Indonesia.

This paper, based on interviews with Australian and Indonesia police and immigration officials, freedom of information requests and governmental documents, argues that such cooperation results in significant human rights abuses for refugees prevented from seeking asylum in Australia. While Australia has supported the Indonesian police in order to outsource and externalise its own border controls, it still remains legally responsible for the human rights abuses which occur in Indonesia as a result of this cooperation.


Asher Hirsch is a Senior Policy Officer with the Refugee Council of Australia and a PhD candidate at Monash University in Law Faculty. His research investigates Australia’s extraterritorial migration control activities in Southeast Asia, which aim to prevent asylum seekers from reaching Australian territory and seeking protection.



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